Showing posts with label benkei. Show all posts
Showing posts with label benkei. Show all posts

Friday, April 21, 2023

Tokei Shrine Tanabe World Heritage Site

Tokei Shrine Tanabe World Heritage Site

Tokei Shrine is the main shrine of Tanabe, Wakayama, known as the gateway to the Kumano Kodo.

In 2016 the shrine was added to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range, most commonly known as Kumano Kodo.

The shrine grounds are home to many ancient Camphor trees with the oldest estimated to be 1200 years old.

The famed warrior-monk Benkei, known primarily as the sidekick of Yoshitsune, was born in Tanabe and a statue in the shrine depicts him with his father and some chickens.

According to the story, Benkei's father was asked for support from both sides of the conflict known as the Genpei War between the Taira and Minamoto clans. Unable to decide, he staged a series of cock fights between cocks with red and white feathers, representing each side of the conflict. The cocks with white feathers won and so he chose to support the Minamoto.

According to the shrine, it was founded in the 5th century, which seems very speculative to me, however the shrine rose to prominence in the 11th century as a branch of the Kumano Sanzan shrines. Pilgrims would pray here for a safe journey into the interior, and in some cases, because the pilgrimage route was at times heavily traveled by bandits and robbers, pilgrims would go no further and "worship from afar" here.

Tokei Shrine enshrines all the kami that are enshrined in the Kumano Sanzan, the three big shrines of Hongu, Shingu, and Nachi, that are the focus of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage, which is why there are so many hondens.

There are also a wide variety of sub-shrines scattered throughout the grounds. many festivals take place throughout the year including the massive  Tanabe Matsuri held in July and also a Benkei Festival.

I arrived here at the end of my 4th day walking the Saigoku Pilgrimage. The previous post in the series was Takahara to Takajirioji on the Nakahechi.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Month of Little Sleep part 9


Past midnight and the inevitable Iwato was performed. It is one of my least favorite dances, but the last sequence after Amaterasu has been brought out of the cave and the assembled kami celebrate is performed with gusto by 8-beat groups such as Tanijyugo, and it gets quite frenetic with much leaping about.


Then onto Jinrin with the usual spectacular demons entrance.....


Next up was a rare performance of Benkei & Yoshitsune. Benkei, the legendary and archetypal sohei (warrior monk) is waiting on Gojo bridge in Kyoto to challenge the next samurai who passes. he has done this successfully 99 times. A slight, young Yoshitsune comes along.


Yoshitsune had been trained in swordsmanship by a tengu in the mountains north of kyoto, and his acrobatic skill is too much for Benkei who after being defeated becomes Yoshitsunes lifelong loyal vassal.... a very similar story to Robin Hood and Little John....


next dance was Tenjin, the first time I had seen the dance this season. Sugawara Michizane, the hero,, deified as Tenjin, wears a mask uncannily like the Guy Fawkes mask in V for Vendetta, takes on his arch-enemy Fujiwara no Tokihira.


It was 2:30am, still 4 more hours of kagura to go, but I left to grab some sleep as the next day there was an all night Omoto Matsuri up in the mountains and I wanted to stay all night for that....

Friday, December 9, 2011

Benkei mask


I have finally got round to finishing some new masks. This one is of Benkei, the archetypal sohei (warrior monk) and famed sidekick of Yoshitsune. The dance he appears in is Tsuzuki Dannoura, which is based on a story in the Heike Monogatari. Popular in kabuki, it is an uncommon dance in the Iwami kagura repertoire, and it has been quite a few years since I have seen it performed.


Benkei is always depicted wearing a cowl and this signifies his status as a sohei.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Konsenji Temple 3 Shikoku Pilgrimage

Konsenji Temple 3 Shikoku Pilgrimage

The third temple on the pilgrimage route, only a few kilometers from the second, is in Itano Town and its name means Golden Spring Temple.


It belongs to the Shingon sect, and the main deity is Shaka Nyorai, the historical Buddha known as Sakyamuni in English.

Legend has it that the temple was founded by Gyogi, and also that he carved the main sculpture.


Legend has it that later when Kobo Daishi visited he struck his staff into the ground and sacred, healing water gushed forth. This same story occurs often throughout Japan.


The temple was burned down, like so many others, by Chosokabe in the late 16th Century and was rebuilt later.

There is a large rock in the grounds known as the Benkei Stone, that legend says was lifted by Benkei as a show of strength when he and Yoshitsune stopped here.


Konsenji has a fine Niomon Gate with Nio, a lovely lotus pond,  a fine Pagoda, and my favorite statue, a Kurikara, the sword of Fudo Myo with entwined serpent.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

More Gakuen-Ji


Gakuen-Ji is among the oldest buddhist temples in Japan.

According to the story it is connected to Empress Suiko who ruled from 592CE to 628CE.


Another emperor linked to Gakuen-Ji is Emperor G0-Daigo who stayed at the temple after his escape from exile on the Oki Islands.


Probably the most famous person connected to the temple is the legendary warrior-monk Benkei. Every year at the end of October the temple holds a Benkei Matsuri complete with many people dressed as Benkei to commemorate his carrying a bell 100 kilometers from Mt Daisen to Gakuen-Ji. Until recently the festival included a walk from Daisen, but that has been discontinued.


While the legend of the temples founding is linked to a crocodile, some historians suggest that this is to do with the legendary figure Wani (crocodile) who brought chinese writing and Confuscianism from the mainland.


The crocodile of Gakuen-Ji as well as the crocodiles in the Inaba Rabbit story suggest connections between this part of Japan and the introduction of foreign knowlege.


There is no public transport to Gakuen-Ji, so to get there involves an expensive taxi ride from Hirata, or a walk over the mountains from Izumo Taisha if you dont have your own transport.

Ive always said this was my favorite temple, but I just got back from visiting a couple of mountain temples in Izumo, Mine-Ji and Kezo-Ji, both very, very, old, both remote, and both previously sites of Shugendo training, so........